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Ontario
Equal Employment Opportunity

Overview

Please review the information below and then return to the workplace harassment and violence prevention course.

Applicable Laws

The primary Ontario law prohibiting employment discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of any protected ground is the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1 prohibits harassment and violence in the workplace.

Protected Grounds

Harassment or discrimination based on any ground set forth below is prohibited in Ontario.

  • race,
  • ancestry,
  • place of origin,
  • colour,
  • ethnic origin,
  • citizenship,
  • creed,
  • sex,
  • sexual orientation,
  • gender identity,
  • gender expression,
  • age,
  • record of offences,
  • marital status,
  • family status
  • and disability.

Some provincial or territorial laws provide additional, separate standards and remedies for certain prohibited conduct, such as laws addressing equal pay without regard to sex or other protected ground.

Definitions of Harassment and Violence

Harassment

Under the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, “harassment” is defined to mean engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Harassment includes:

A sexual solicitation or advance made by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement where the person making the solicitation or advance knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome.

A reprisal or a threat of reprisal for the rejection of a sexual solicitation or advance where the reprisal is made or threatened by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1 (OHSA), “workplace harassment” means either:

Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Workplace sexual harassment.

The definition of “workplace sexual harassment” largely resembles sexual solicitation harassment under the Human Rights Code. Under the OHSA, “workplace sexual harassment” is defined to mean either:

Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.

Reasonable actions taken by an employer or a supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the workplace (for example, discipline or performance management) are excluded from the definition of workplace harassment.

See the Human Rights Code, sections 7(2), (3), 10(1) “harassment” and the OHSA, section 1(1) “workplace harassment” and “workplace sexual harassment”, 1(4).

Violence

While the exercise of physical force and resulting physical injury is not required for a finding of workplace harassment, they are important components of workplace violence. Under the OHSA, “workplace violence” means:

The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker.

An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.

A statement or behaviour that is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.

The legislation does not distinguish between violence involving co-workers and violence that originates from others who may enter the workplace.

Filing a Claim in Ontario

A claim for employment discrimination or harassment based on a protected ground may be filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

A claim related to workplace violence, including harassment, may be filed with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

Retaliation Prohibited

Employer retaliation against an employee who files a complaint relating to harassment or workplace violence or is involved in the complaint process is unlawful.